Zaira finds tooth caps for Sandor that will suffice for the short term. They look a little odd on him and she tells him not to smile, if possible. That shouldn’t be too difficult given his temperament. She makes a note to contact her uncle in Romania. He has a dental practice and she can order a custom-made supply of caps for Sandor.
Sandor is quiet on the commute into North Station, engrossed in a paperback copy of The Elegant Universe. He’s more curious about his surroundings on the Red Line which is bustling and full of students and young professionals. Zaira-cum-Sam looks at Sandor’s woolen sweater and reminds herself that she must buy him some clothes: a winter coat and new jeans, some nice shirts, boots.
“People seem intelligent here,” Sandor tells her as they climb the steps out of the Kendall Square subway and emerge onto a street of building complexes. “They look animated and purposeful. I suppose it keeps you focused when you realize you’ll only have seventy or eighty years to accomplish your goals.”
Sam is startled by that zinger. It’s a true observation, and Sandor has touched on the deepest existential challenge in the life of a vampire; through the march of the centuries and millennia, how can the joy of surprise, of excitement and anticipation about the world be kept alive? Sam wants to alert Sandor to this predicament, to prepare him to face it so that his spirit will survive the ages. Sam has witnessed the alternative in members of their race — a lifeless life without end. She has not been without her own struggles in this regard.
Gil, Rina and Evan are standing together in the kitchen area when Sam escorts Sandor into BubbleTrendz. Rina is listening thoughtfully to Evan describe his idea for a new app for their financial clients, a polling metric for customer relations. Gil is listening, but his eyes are focused on the floor, not on Evan. Poor Gil, Sam thinks to herself, realizing how tired he looks. Lately, he’s been showing up at work hours earlier than is customary for him, given his nocturnal nature. She remembers Gil wanted to tell her something in confidence, something about the computer glitch on Monday. But, it’s time to introduce Sandor.
“Hi, everyone! This is my cousin Sandor who just came over from Hungary. He’s interested in applying for the internship, it turns out he’s a Python programmer!”
Evan sweeps his eyes over the tall, pale Transylvanian. “You have a work permit?”
“No. I arrived less than a week ago. But, I’ve brought my Python code,” Sandor tells him, pulling a memory stick out of his pants pocket.
“The internships are for students,” Evan says, although he’s now looking at the memory stick in Sandor’s pale long-fingered hand. He looks into Sandor’s eyes. “If your code is truly exceptional, we can probably work something out, apply for an H-1B.”
Sandor looks questioningly at Sam. “Show him what you’ve written,” she tells him encouragingly, feeling a sudden surge of loyalty for her cousin. He showed courage to come here today, unasked, to offer up his creative work to a potentially hostile, unreceptive world.
“Let’s go to my office and talk,” Evan tells Sandor authoritatively. “And, why don’t you come along, too?” he says to Rina, smiling.
The invitation is not extended to Gil, and he continues standing in the kitchen with Sam, after the othre three have left. Sam knows he must be smarting a bit from Evan’s barbs of exclusion and dominance. She asks him, conspiratorially, “What was that about the red feathers?”
Gil gives her a sudden, meaningful look. “My friend Ben is Red Feathers. He’s a totally cool guy, a great Java hacker, and he wouldn’t initiate a DoS against a financial services website. No way. He’s got a great gig in biotech, he’s a total science geek, straight arrow guy.”
“Couldn’t there be more than one Red Feathers handle out there?” Sam asks, instinctively monitoring Evan’s office to see whether he’ll reappear suddenly.
“There could. But, get this.” Gil speaks more softly now. “Evan hangs out at that same coffee bar, too. A lot. I mean, he’s Mayor of it on Foursquare. That place gets a bazillion Foursquare checkins. To be Mayor there is significant.”
“So, what are you saying, Gil?”
“Do you know for certain that he-” Sam doesn’t want to mention Evan by name.
“It’s not a smoking gun, but he’s there all the time and could easily do this. I just think it’s pretty weird that we never had a glitch like this with any of our client sites, and the first day he shows up, bam! Big denial of service attack.”
“And he wants it to look as though others are instigating it?”
“Exactly. It’s why he’d steal IDs.”
“But why would he do such a thing?” Sam is trying to fit the jumbled bits into a whole: Evan’s sudden prominence at BubbleTrendz, the apparent denial of service attack, Dean’s strange compliance with an investment takeover.
“That is something we’d better find out. And soon,” Gil tells her softly, his eyes alert.
The young doctor who examined Marty Gaynor’s neck wound is surprised by the report that comes back from the external lab. He’s surprised enough to telephone the geneticist who wrote up the report. The geneticist repeats his analysis over the phone; the sequences he was able to extract from the sample sent to his lab were not close matches to published sequences in non-human species of primates, but were ‘in the ballpark’. Without more samples of the DNA on which to run more sequencing, the geneticist cannot determine the species this chemistry belongs to.
“There’s no possibility that it’s human, correct?”
“Correct.” The young physician hears the sigh from the other end of the phone connection. “From what I’ve been able to learn — which is admittedly incomplete — this animal, this being, should be more distantly related to humans than Neanderthals. But probably more closely related to us than chimpanzees.”
“It is, if it’s really true. Is it possible to obtain more samples? I can’t reach a more conclusive analysis without more data.”
“Very doubtful,” the doctor tells him with genuine disappointment now, realizing that the thorough cleaning of the wound probably eliminated any remaining traces.
“Well, I guess the story ends here for now,” the geneticist tells him. “But, if you obtain more samples, please send them to me.”
The call is ended, and the doctor brings up Marty Gaynor’s medical record on the computer. He locates the phone number for his patient and calls him. He intends to be precise and firm about the soundness of recommending that Marty undergo the treatment of rabies shots; primates can carry the disease, after all. But, the doctor decides to remain vague about what type of animal. His choice of words, ‘a nocturnal mammal of the northeast’ is not, strictly speaking, a lie. The only important medical issue is to ensure that the patient is protected from possible exposure to rabies, which the shots will provide.
The young physician meets his girlfriend later that day in downtown Boston. She’s an attorney with a large law office. It’s the one day a week their schedules permit having lunch together. He tells her about the strange wound on his patient and the even stranger and inconclusive lab results. She listens, a little distracted by incoming texts on her cellphone. Finally she looks at him and smiles. “I don’t know, Ted, maybe the guy was bitten by a vampire.”
He smiles back. “Why didn’t I think of that.”
Her eyes twinkle flirtatiously. “Two little holes in the neck and he has blood loss? Maybe you should be recommending garlic wreaths and, what is it, silver candlesticks? Or is it mirrors they don’t like.”
“The lab results eliminated a human agent. It’s why I’m not making a police report.”
“Could someone have stabbed him with a two-tined implement, and then some raccoony kind of critter crawled over and licked him while he lay unconscious on the beach?” She shakes her head, smiling. “Naw, I don’t think raccoons go to the beach. Anyway, you said it was some kind of primate. Have any monkeys escaped from a zoo?”
Ted looks at her seriously. “It wasn’t a monkey. The lab ruled out homo sapiens but not all conceivable hominids. It’s a baffling case, Alicia. I’ve got to accept that.”
Her smile fades. “It’s kind of spooky if you ask me.”
— to be continued —